Bavikile Ngema


Produced by Sazi Dlamini
Recorded at The Headroom Studio in Durban, South Africa
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Marius Botha
Original photo and illustration by Maria Cristina Giampietri
Design and layout by Steve Jones

Bavikile ‘MaBhengu’ Ngema, who lives in Mbongolwane, eShowe was born in 1951 in the Nkandla district of KwaZulu-Natal. A prolific composer and virtuoso player on makhweyana and mqangala (mbheleza) musical bows, she also plays harmonica and jaws-harp. Learning to play by watching and imitating her sisters and cousins, Bavikile is the first player I have come across who employs an extended makhweyana stopping technique to obtain an extra fundamental note on the higher-pitched segment of the braced bow. She possesses acutely integrated senses of the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities of both traditional and popular Zulu music – which lends both her original compositions and interpretations of indigenous repertoires with dancing, youthful vibrancy. Deeply steeped in the poetic Zulu traditions, her texts display a sharp critique and astute comment on the social, political and the moral of everyday experience. More than this her music provides a rich respository of her own life story – which can be summed up as one of courage and indomitability in the face of devastating personal tragedies, including the death of her husband and recently her three children in the prime of their youth…


Abomndeni (‘Those of family’)
‘Abomndeni badl’ imal’ yengane yam’. Those of my family have squandered the money [paid for my child’s ilobolo].
Bavikile Ngema – voice, chorus voices, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – acoustic guitars

Alikho La Ekhaya (‘It is not in this home here’)
‘[Ithuna lami] alikho la ekhaya’. My grave is not in this home here. The singer wishes to be buried at her own parents’ village upon her death – not here at her in-laws’ family home.
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – kalimba, mqangala mouthbow

Asihambe Nawe (‘Let us go together’)
‘Asihambe nawe siyokhwel’ ibhanoyi’. Let us go together to ride in an aeroplane.
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana

Igama Lami (‘My name’)
Why do you speak my name in my absence?
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – kalimba, percussion

Inhliziyo Yami Ibuhlungu (‘My heart aches’)
As you see me now, I do not have my children anymore.
Bavikile Ngema – voice, chorus voices, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – umtshingo flute, drum

One of the many local names by which mqangala mouthbow is known.
Bavikile Ngema – voice, mqangala mouthbow
Sazi Dlamini – electric guitars

Umoya Wami (‘My soul’)
I do not want anything to disturb my soul…
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – drum

Kwasenza (‘It destroyed us’)
Whatever killed our grandparent Mbutwatwa, did it to us…
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – dikwe 5-string harp, voice
Lungile Dlamini – voice

Wezinsizwa (‘Young men!’)
Young men, all of you must come see me play!
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana

Woza Makoti (‘Come here young bride’)
‘Sikulandile, woza makoti sikulandile’. We have come to fetch you. Come young bride.
Bavikile Ngema – voice, makhweyana
Sazi Dlamini – voice
Lungile – voice

Original biographical and track notes by Sazi Dlamini